India is a cricket-crazy nation and cricketers are worshipped as demigods here. Quite unsurprisingly, India has produced a lot of great cricketers over the decades, and it is a challenging task to choose an all-time eleven from them. However, we have to keep in mind that ODIs only gained prominence in the 1980s; hence, we have to rule out a lot of worthy cricketers who played prior to that.
One more thing: better batting tracks and more powerful bats have helped inflate the batting averages of the batters during the past two decades. Therefore, that also has to be taken into consideration.
Now, we will get on with the unenviable task:
#1 Virender Sehwag
It seems strange that the swashbuckling Sehwag had a better record in Tests than in ODIs. However, his ODI record is good enough to guarantee him a spot on the team. His uppercuts have attained legendary status now, but it has to be kept in mind that he could hit them quite well in front of the wicket, too.
Sehwag was the first man to score a double century in an ODI and that alone is good enough to book him a spot in the team. 8273 runs in 251 ODIs at an average of 35, and a strike rate of 104 further strengthens his case only. He is also a World Cup and an ICC Champions Trophy winner, and had he been more concerned about improving his batting records and checked his instincts somewhat, he would have boasted of an even better record.
#2 Rohit Sharma
It seems to be a distant memory, but Rohit started his career as a middle-order batter. His elegance reminded a few people of a certain Viv Richards. However, he could not do justice to his immense talent initially. The retirements of Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir left a void at the top of the order, and Rohit was promoted to the opener’s slot.
Since then there has been no looking back and his ability to swat short deliveries over the deep mid-wicket and deep square-leg boundaries have earned him the epithet “Hitman.” Rohit is a good player through the offside and has amassed 9376 runs from 233 ODIs at an average of 48 and a strike rate of 89. He also remains the only player to hit five centuries in an ODI World Cup.
#3 Virat Kohli
Kohli is among the game’s all-time greats and has achieved a lot in his career thus far. His credentials make him walk into any Indian eleven of all time. He is renowned for his cover drives and can score in almost any playing condition. He also captained India for a long time.
Kohli won the 2011 ODI World Cup as a youngster for India and has scored a staggering 12344 runs in 262 ODIs for India. His ODI average of 57 almost beggars belief, that too, over the course of such a long career. Kohli has every chance of finishing his career as the second highest run-scorer ever in ODIs and is one of the luminaries of Indian cricket.
#4 Sachin Tendulkar
I have never liked the epithet “God of Cricket” personally, simply because there cannot be a God of any sport. However, Tendulkar can easily be called the “King of cricket,” in my opinion. In a career spanning over two decades, the Maestro scored 18426 runs in as many as 463 ODIs at an average of 44 and a strike rate of 86.
He also faced a lot of quality bowlers all over the world and ended up dominating most of them. Tendulkar had a copybook straight-drive and was equally comfortable playing off his front and back foot. There have not been too many batters like him in the history of the game, and one should recognise the fact that he was quite handy as a bowler in ODIs, too. He is one of the players who select themselves for such a team.
#5 Sourav Ganguly (C)
There are quite a few candidates for No. 5. slot like Mohammed Azharuddin, an elegant batter and a wonderful fielder, and Yuvraj Singh, a powerful hitter and an amazing fielder. However, Ganguly makes the team simply because he is a left-handed batter, and this team can do it with one.
His astute cricketing brain makes him the captain of this side. Look at his captaincy record here. He is also capable of scoring runs in the middle order despite being successful as an opener in ODIs. He is duly credited with starting the concept of “Team India” and instilled confidence in young Indian cricketers on his side to make them world-beaters.
Ganguly led India to a World Cup final and lost to Australia, but there was no shame in losing to a side that strong. He also won the ICC Champions Trophy jointly with Sri Lanka as the Indian captain and scored 11363 runs in 311 ODIs at an average of 41. He was also quite handy with his medium pace and had the much-cherished ability to fill in as the fifth bowler.
#6 Mohammad Azharuddin
Azharuddin, yet another former Indian skipper, did not get the No. 5 slot but got the next one. Few players in the history of the game all over the world- much less India- could match Azhar’s wristy elegance. His flicks and drives could leave spectators spellbound regularly.
Azhar scored 9378 runs from 334 ODIs at an average of 36 when batting averages over 40 were almost unheard of for batters, and the ones slightly below it were considered the hallmark of a great player. In addition, Azhar was a wonderful fielder when being a wonderful fielder was not considered fashionable and also led India in three ODI World Cups- a feat nobody else did.
#7 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (VC & WK)
Many readers will be disappointed not to find Dhoni as the skipper. Still, in my humble opinion, Ganguly possessed an even sharper cricketing brain. Let us assume for once that Dhoni will not mind being the vice-captain and having the responsibility of donning the gloves.
Dhoni remained the quintessential finisher with an ice-cool brain throughout his career and also won the ODI World Cup as the skipper in 2011. Dhoni used to bludgeon the ball frequently early on in his career and had no problem carting sixes with his “helicopter shot” and others, but became more sedate as his career progressed. He scored 10773 runs from 350 ODIs at a sparkling average of 50, and his average was even more incredible than Kohli’s, which was achieved while batting higher up the order.
#8 Kapil Dev
Almost three decades after his retirement, Kapil remains the only genuine world-class all-rounder India has produced. Kapil took up fast bowling when there were not many willing to ply the trade in India and ended up with 253 wickets from 225 matches with an economy rate well below 4.
He also could turn a game on its head with his fearless batting, scoring 3783 runs in 225 matches at an average of 23 and a strike rate of 95 that defied belief in that era. In addition, Kapil also achieved the Herculean feat of winning the ODI World Cup as a captain in 1983, which ushered in a revolution for the game in the country.
Kapil’s out-swingers, pull and hook shots and very reliable fielding make him an indispensable part of this team and there have been very few of his kind in world cricket.
#9 Anil Kumble
Kumble was anything but a conventional leg-spinner and hardly managed to turn the ball. However, his accuracy and fighting spirit made him one of the biggest match-winners Indian cricket has seen. His ability to polish off the tail with deliveries bowled at the block-hole has not been replicated by any Indian spinner since.
Kumble’s economy rate was over 4, but the wickets had already become flattered, and bats more powerful towards the latter stages of his career. Kumble was also renowned for taking wickets without help from others, i.e., by castling the batsmen or trapping them in front of the wicket. He took 337 wickets in 271 ODIs at an economy rate of 4.3 and had to be the lone spinner in this team.
#10 Javagal Srinath
Srinath had the unenviable task of filling in the void left by Kapil early on in his career and managed to do quite a commendable job at that. His in-swingers will complement Kapil’s out-swingers quite perfectly as far as this team is concerned.
Srinath, much like Kapil, shouldered the responsibility of spearheading the Indian pace-attack for quite a long time. He found an able ally in Venkatesh Prasad, but the latter could not enjoy a very long career. Srinath took 315 wickets from 229 ODIs with an economy rate of 4.4 and remained one of the most underrated servants of Indian cricket.
#11 Zaheer Khan
Just like India’s batting line-up needed a southpaw, their bowling attack can do with one too. However, there are other reasons why Zaheer is on this team. His ability to vary his length and move the ball away from the right-handed batters will be an asset for this team.
Zaheer, much like his predecessors, had the task of spearheading the Indian pace attack for a decade and did not disappoint the team management on most occasions. He took 282 wickets from 200 ODIs with an economy rate of 4.9. The economy rate was on the higher side, but as we have already mentioned more than once, the conditions have become far more batter-friendly during the last decade or two.
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